The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

Saturday evening – Jill is in Carievale right now and Gina is in Carnduff, they both posted to the family chat pictures of the rain coming down in each place. For the second time this week rain has fallen unbelievably close to us but stopped short of reaching us. That is not to say that we won’t benefit from some of those rains, we have pasture and hayland that likely caught some of it. However, I said to Russell yesterday, “a person almost feels cursed”, he immediately cautioned me not to think or talk in the direction of cursedness. He is wise. Digging into the hearts doing the ranching around here we are dealing with so much hard stuff right now. A blog that invites the reader to experience life on a Canadian ranch would be misleading if it glossed over these days we are having. I just don’t want to do that. What do I tell you? How do I write about this so that you don’t shut it down and close the page because its depressing? Can I lure you into reading more by promising that I will counter every tough paragraph with something positive, hopeful or possibly funny? I think that is what Russell would want. The problem with thinking along lines of being cursed is that it sucks you in and makes you lose sight of the broader reality, which in our case is that we have true blessings that we experience every day.

So…………the big big deal…………our hay yield sucks. What this means……we do not have the feed we need to make it through the winter and especially if it is a tough winter. We have no way of knowing about that. We are not alone. There are few ranchers within hundreds of miles of here untouched by the drought we are in and some much worse than we are, we can be thankful that we have some hay. Right now that means some lost sleep, lots of mental scrambling to figure out options, and flirting with the awful thought that we might have to sell some of our cows. The hard part of that is that everyone will be selling some and the market will be glutted, which means a low price will be paid. The terrible part is that we sell our cows, our beautiful creatures with names and histories and places in our heart. That sense of connection is hard to explain, they can be mean and threatening, they can be gross and stinky, but we journey with them and we are theirs and they are ours.

This cow is a big part of Russell’s sense of cow history. He remembers milking her grandma, a retired purebred holstein named “Pokey.” After he had broken both his arms in 1979 this milking job was part of his physiotherapy. Mozza Stick is the daughter of Wilbur, who was one of Pokey’s last calves. This makes Russell 3 generations of cows old.

Okay, I guess you have to be careful what you wish for. When I said I would alternate the hard with maybe something funny I wasn’t sure what that funny would be, but it presented itself. Just after I wrote that heartfelt line about our journey with the cows Russ phoned. He said he had a story for me but it really ended up being a job. He could hardly tell me the story for the laughter it caused him. Morgan was checking the calving herd, now down to a dozen, he found a situation which required him to load up a calf in the truck and drive it over to its Mama. The calf pooped, right on the drivers seat, why the calf was in the drivers seat I will never know. Morgan was therefore stranded in the calving pasture. He called Russ to come get him, the way that call started Russ figured he must have totalled the truck or something. Russ was relieved to be able to stay in the hayfield and call me for back-up. Morgan asked for paper towel and garbage bags plural. I thought that must have been one heckuva mess. On my way over I decided that this was not the time to push Morgan’s adult skill building, he has had a rough couple days with helping with repairs in high heat and not much satisfaction of getting work done, so, I was going to do the clean-up. I got Morgan to take my picture as I approached the job decked out with a pail of bleachey water, paper towel, two sizes of garbage bags and disposable gloves. I said, “Morgan, Super Pooper has arrived.” He said, “Mobile Super Pooper”, I have never taken my skills on the road before! (If you don’t count summer camp.) Anyways, for those who don’t know, I have an alter ego, a super hero identity, I am “Super Pooper” because no matter how gross the job I can usually handle it. Life on a ranch and with kids has given me many opportunities to strengthen the skills I began working on when as a 17 year old I was a nurses aide. Morgan has literally no tolerance for this part of life yet. He would have walked home if I had not come. The job was not hard and before too long Morg was rolling. In fact he was done for the day at that point. When he got home he said he would wait to eat, he needed some down time. I said, “do me a favor and wash your face.” He said, “how about you do me a favor and wash it for me.” He sat down on the toilet seat and I got to wash his face, like the good old days, it did this Mama’s heart good.

“Super Pooper” in her new service option….going mobile.

Ranching from the heart………..I hate haying season. With three tractors and three implements in the field every day the possibility of mechanical issues seems high. We have newer implements but two very old tractors, our newer tractor doesn’t seem too hardy. I am always so relieved when I pick up the phone to find Russ sounding chipper on the other end, he usually is, but sometimes he is just exasperated. He has a gift for staying up when the conditions are trying but the way things mount up is getting to even him. Having said that we can see our blessings. For some reason last night the monitor in the baler was completely wonky. Russ thought it through and this morning realized this was a tractor battery issue. Our local shops are closed on Saturday but that didn’t stop Erin from coming in from her farm, opening up her shop and selling us a battery. Russ got up and running feeling infinitely grateful for Erin’s generosity of spirit. However, then the fan on the air conditioner went. By shortly after lunch Brock was in the field doing mobile service on that problem. I had delivered Russ a stellar lunch. So shortly after Brock left, with the ac running, I got a text from Russ that said, “U R married to the happiest man in the world.” See what I mean? He finds every reason to claim the good. My afternoon included delivering buns for my bakery project and when I got back Jim Lee from Lee’s Service was in the yard trying to fix a very weird hydraulic problem we are having with the hay rake and a weird glitchy thing on the PTO shaft on the tractor. So…………after a first week of haying with no breakdown delays, today was the mother of all service days, and I guess I topped it off with my mobile super pooper call to the calving pasture!!!

Something positive………….Serious excitement is brewing around here about the fact that we are officially in book writing mode. All those times that Liz Griffin came to take pictures at our place were part of personal need for documenting our life just before Gina graduated and moved but also were research…..did we have the material to create a book about ranch life? We had a creative meeting this week and decided that yes, we are moving on to the next step. There are beautiful images that Liz has taken that are just too good to not offer in large format. However, we are short on summer scenes and summer work. So…………Liz came and documented our work moving cows to alternate pasture on Thursday night. Afterwards she shared 2 sneaks peeks on Facebook. They are here. She captured beauty and joy, for me these pictures are like a mirror that reflects back that alongside the struggles of today we are immersed in beauty and we feel joy.

A little more about the shape of this drought. Our hay is poor but our pasture is decent. Our water is low but not gone yet. The poor hay can be explained by the dry summer, fall and then winter that we had, no water in place to get the hay started in a meaningful way. The fact that we have any yield is due to the rains that I commented on previously in the blog. Thats how I understand this. So when you look at pictures you might see green grass, you see water in a dugout, it doesn’t look like a drought, you might think I am not being accurate, and for truth, it could be much worse. That is a very scary thought. The signs of vitality you see are a result of timely rains in certain spots, we continue to hold our breath. In my dark moments I wonder, “am I going to be holding my breath for the rest of my life?”

Something positive………Gina got a call from one of our local superheros. Her name is Jean and she runs an ice cream shop in town, out of a structure she had built onto her house. She was going on a holiday and rather than shut the ice cream shop down she wondered if Gina would come and run it. She went for training and then took over. Our girl is having quite the experience and it is fun to hear her stories and who she gets to see. I think she is doing a good job and mostly its pretty fun for her. I call Jean a superhero because her creative approach to offering this business has meant a great drop in spot in Carnduff for awesome ice cream, she is a special person in alot of people’s eyes, for those of us who love ice cream her work is heroic! However, we are missing Gina on the ranch crew and Morgan and Jill are picking up the slack. I think Gina has plumped up their cones when we have gone in for a “visit” with her.

Gina serving Grandma Shirley on her 1st day on the job.
After our cow move Thursday night Kent picked up his kids and the whole crew went for a visit with Gina.

Ranching from the heart………I didn’t have it in me this year to plant flowers. My planters are empty. That probably sounds depressing to some but to me it represents freedom. For some reason the work of keeping myself and Russ, three kids, four dogs, five cats, for a time a bottle fed calf, 17 horses and hundreds of cows and calves alive is just enough for me. (Only a fraction of this is my responsibility but I am involved in every issue at some level.) I can’t muster an ounce of interest in watering and fertilizing flowers. I truly hope I don’t need that freedom next year and I will be back to it.

In the meantime, Russ has been picking me bouquets from the pastures. The wildflowers are beautiful.

Another thing positive……….my kids all got their second vaccine this week. Gina had to shut down the ice cream shop for a day afterwards due to a rapid series of symptoms, fever, headache, exhaustion, but she bounced back and is doing great.

Another thing positive…..our province felt it was timely to remove all Covid restrictions. Life is feeling more normal again. I cannot imagine what would be unfolding if the vaccines were not working to protect us as pretty nasty variants make their way around. So, so, so, thankful!!!

Another thing positive……….Coffee dog is doing great with her broken leg and getting great care from the vets. This week she needed some extra TLC at her splint check. Jenna had her just about purring.

Another thing positive……..I am married to the best friend I ever had. As hard as a day gets I know it is a privilege to get to lie beside him every night and talk over anything and everything that I am thinking about.

The drought is horrible and we have had some pretty searching conversations about prayer around here this week. Way too deep to work on in this already lengthy post. Maybe another time. In the meantime I had a grace this week, I had a day when I had this recurring thought and feeling come bubbling up, “everything is going to be okay.” It felt like a total blessing.

Diary of a Ranch Wife – July 12, 2021

We had a call this morning that a neighbor’s herd of heifer cows had broken in with one of our herds. We know this could cause trouble because if our big bull breeds his heifers (young and inexperienced cows) he will have calving troubles next spring. So, Russ has been assembling a cowboy crew to head down there and fix the troubles by sorting out Corey’s heifers from our cows and bulls. Without the benefit of a gate/corral system it is extra tricky to sort cows on the open range. Russ wants me to come with them and act like a human gate. I am not very interested. I am in a super homebody mode these days. I am soon going to be changing into my work clothes though and heading out. Its 4:32pm. I have to go clean out my vehicle. I will have passengers because the crew Russ gathered is large and that bodes well for our success, but the truck is in an embarrassing state.

5:58pm We are at the pasture and all the cowboys and girls have saddled up and headed off. Here is what some of that action looked like.

Cowboy David riding his horse Sadie
Cowboy Dawson riding Spirit
Cowboy Evan riding Dick
Cowboy Kent riding Lady Penelope
Cowgirl Briella getting ready to jump onto Jane.
Cowgirl Marisol riding Thunderbird
Cowgirl Jackie on her horse Roscoe.
The crew pulls away.
Morgan, Russ and Bingo at the head of the group.
As woman on the ground, I was needed to hold horses while things got sorted out. This selfie kind’ve cracks me up. It looks like I am having a decent hair day, but Sundance, not so much!!!

In the end I didn’t have to drive, instead another truck and trailer went to accommodate all the horses and I got to be a passenger with Jackie. That gave us time to talk about how it is that I became a minister and she became a nurse. Now I am waiting for the crew to go round up the herd. We have set up trucks and trailers to act as wings in a corner of the pasture and with those cowboys hope to hold the herd while we sort out those heifers and the bull they are meant to be hanging out with. Russ figures it will take them 45 minutes or more to get the herd and move them back to this corner. The pasture is absolutely beautiful, rolling hills, coulees, trees, wild flowers and just out of sight the Souris river. There is a good breeze and it has started to cool down. I am not hard done by sitting here with my laptop.

I had a little Kathy victory moment before we left the yard. I noticed a low tire, by the time Russ came around to see what was up I had found the air hose, attached it to the outside air spigot, found the airchuk inside the shop, got it attached and was getting the tire aired up. For many that would be no big deal, but that represents a bit of competence that I didn’t used to have and I was glad for Russ to find me taking care of business.

Tuesday, 10:09am Not long after I wrote that last bit I could hear mooing in the distance, the crew was closer than I thought so I shut my laptop and hopped out of the truck. In fact they had yet to get across a coulee before they topped a hill, so I took time for some selfies, had a real portrait session of it actually, burned up alot of power on my low power phone and never did capture a sharp one. Anyways……..the thing about being a ranch wife is that you get to save all your old favorite clothes for work days. You have an excuse to hang on to stuff that normally should have been pitched. This is a bonus for sentimental people like me. For the work of this day I was happily wearing jeans that I remember first wearing on a family vacation in Cody, Wyoming in 2008, my t-shirt is a souvenir of my year in Up With People (1991).

Russ let me use his shepherd’s crook, its kindv’e mysterious, holds alot of power. I tried to do right by it. (We build it up like that to bolster our confidence….its maybe just a long cane….maybe.)

Once the cows got near it didn’t take long for the real action to begin. At first, standing in the gate watching things I wondered if it could be done. The large group of cowboys and cowgirls was very much needed. We had many at the back holding the cow herd into the corner and then several in and around the front of the herd to sort out the heifers. Luckily they were a different breed than most of ours and easy to keep sight of once contact was made. It was a good feeling to see the crew get the first heifer out, I did my job at the gate to get it to leave our pasture and enter Corey’s. Part of my job was to be still as a statue to not frighten the heifer away as it approached. At one point when it seemed I had done that quite well and the critical moment had passed David shouted over “hey is that the Mona Lisa over there?!?” I appreciated the recognition, David got his message across by comparing me to a beautiful painting when my job was to be a statue, as far as I’m concerned its all art and through that first piece of art that came to mind he gave me the message, “I see you over there trying hard!” I appreciated it. Once the heifer advanced past where sight of me was a problem I became a human fence with my shepherds crook held wide and moving up quickly from behind. It was pretty impressive to see the crew and watch their bravery, the sorters had to be up close and personal and give the heifers a sense of space and permission to move towards the gate while keeping our cows back.

Corey, David and Laurie wading through a small sea of cows.
Russ, Corey, David, Morgan and Laurie running that red heifer up the fence. The tricky part here was to keep our calves back. It was quite a feat to get to get the heifer this far up and away from the rest of the herd.
The entrance back into Corey’s pasture. It was a 90 degree angle from the gate out of our pasture. Early on I had to keep one eye on it to make sure these girls didn’t come wandering back out. Once the bull joined them they were all off and gone like a party had been called!

We had to find, sort out and move away 17 heifers and one bull from our herd of 120 cow calf pairs and 6 big Simmental bulls. One of those bulls created an exciting and memorable moment. He started to charge the gate, Russ said, “stop that bull!”, whether I was stupid, obedient or brave I don’t know but I just became warrior Kathy, ran straight at him with that powerful crook in both my hands and I roared, “Noooooooooo!!!!!!.” That 2200 pound bull skidded to a stop right at the gate and turned back to the herd. I found out later that I yelled so loud that I frightened most of the cowboys. Morgan said he was watching the whole thing and knew why I was yelling but still got scared. Russ says he was very proud of me.

Russ was crew chief, we certainly count on his incredible cowboy skills and his people skills.

A good picture of Russell with his pal Evan just behind.

Partway through the process he said, “I think wer’e starting to feel grouchy, lets take a break!” Corey had brought all manner of cold refreshments and lots of them and we did get a benefit from stopping to rest. Russ and a few others stayed at the back and held the herd, others of us were able to visit.

Corey handing out drinks on the break.

After that we had more challenging moments, I think a few swear words were heard, several times a heifer would get so close to the gate and then change its mind and turn 180 degrees at high speed, a wee bit of rodeo was part of these moments.

An example of the challenge….cows, calves and a heifer all together coming up the fence…we need to work some cowboy magic to get the heifer alone.

It was a great feeling when we were down to one to go and then we were done! Corey pulled out delicious snacks and another round of cold drinks, we had a more relaxed visit now.

Evan always has a good story for Russell.
One of our neighbors came down the road in time to enjoy this part of the evening. Charlie enjoyed Evan’s jokes as much as we did I think.
It’s the hang loose cowpokes in the back and the setting sun that make this pic seem a bit epic to me.
Before the day was over Russ took the chance to show Marisol how to bridle a horse with a sore ear.
All loaded back up…..that’s a wrap!

Coffee Break Time

Last Saturday I was sorting through a drawer and found prescription stuff for our dog Eowyn, who was a puppy last year at this time. I looked at the date and thought, “oh we are doing well, Coffee is exactly the same age and she has not been to the vet for anything serious.” Eowyn had been quite a mischevious dog and had two head injuries as a young pup. Hence the reminders of medicine and treatments. We lost Eowyn on the first day of school this past year, when she was stepped on by a bull. It was then a hard decision to get another pup when we had the chance. We did and Coffee has been a real light in our life. It was therefore like a bit of a wee nightmare when Russell phoned me Saturday afternoon (only hours after I had decided we were off to a great start with Coffee) and said, “Coffee got stepped on, can you come pick her up and take her to the vet?” He shared his theory that she had a broken leg, due to the sound he heard. I dropped what I was doing and got out the door. These are the phone calls I hate for obvious reasons, but they also contribute to a databank of anecdotes that all scream at me, “Life is risky! Your heart is not secure! Your life is not controllable!” Those things are all true, but they are darn hard to reckon with very much.

Russell and Gina had been out working with a small group of cows, moving them from one pasture to another, just across a road was the goal. It should have been straightforward and easy but it wasn’t. The cows in this group are ones that we are not breeding again, mostly because they are so aggressive and we don’t want them around, they will do best in the world when they become part of the food chain. There are three that are just terrible, their motherly instinct is fierce and it doesn’t subside as things get established, they have proven themselves to be dangerous pretty much year round.
This picture that Liz Griffin took this calving season is a good illustration of how much the dogs are part of the action and that it can get intense.
This is another recent Liz Griffin picture, this is one of our permanently aggressive cows. Just like in this picture, on Saturday afternoon it was coming for Russell’s horse, so the horse moved fast to get out of the way and Coffee was in the wrong spot for that motion and got underfoot. The fact that Coffee got injured seems to be further proof we need to get rid of the mean cows.
Russ figured out a way that he could end the cattle move right then, sent Gina home with the horses and came to the vet with Coffee and I. I cannot lift more than 20 pounds so this turned out to be a blessing because Coffee needed to be carried. She was also overheated, it was one of our super hot days and she was stress breathing. In this picture she has ice packs on to cool her down and is having a break during the xray process.
Bingo came with us to the vet. She insisted and it made things simpler for Gina but right before we pulled away she found cool water/mud somewhere, which in our focus on Coffee we did not realize. Bingo spent time alone in the vehicle while I grabbed some quick groceries and Russ was with Coffee at the clinic. Bingo was able to get mud all over the passenger parts of my SUV. This is where I imagine someone saying, “Kathy, why don’t you set more limits? Why do you let all this chaos into your world?” To that I answer, there is constantly a triage process happening in my brain, sorting through what is important (which is no simple question), what is urgent, what can be dealt with later. In these moments I could not get worried about my seats which will wipe clean, Bingo needed us and honestly I think I needed Bingo. I spent time with her out in the yard at the clinic while Russ did 98% of the time inside with Dr. Dawn and Coffee. I liked it that way. I am finding I don’t do well in moments like that. I had paper recycling in the back and a water bottle and with these I got the seats that Russ, Coffee and I needed cleaned off and ready for the trip home. Bingo got to keep her muddy seat. (Both Bingo and the seat were dried here and much less threatening looking than they initially were!)
Back home with sedative to sleep off Coffee was an easy patient, Jill was near and happy to comfort her. Morgan was away all weekend helping friends with their cows. We elected to not tell him about Coffee’s mishap until he got home. That was a good decision.
This picture was taken back in early January, the night we picked up Coffee from her owners. What I didn’t realize in this moment was the kind of bond that Morgan was ready to establish with this dog. He and Jill have spent so much time with her and just loved her into her best self. Therefore the news of injury was very tough. As he got used to things Morgan began doing some problem solving, what would make this heal best? He texted Dr. Dawn with the question, “should I be giving a calcium supplement to Coffee?” She answered back, “nope, just lots of cuddles and kisses.” That is an easy presciption to make work.
We took Coffee to the vet for a check-up yesterday. Russell and Megan were able to restrain Coffee for the removal of her splint and for the assessment. I was needed for a bit to restrain while getting the new splint applied. We were able to avoid sedative this way. Dawn was great. She said that everything looked very good underneath and we are good to go for another week.
Those are arms of love but for Coffee I am sure they didn’t feel like it in the moment. Coffee is very resilient, she was acting like herself within a minute of being done.

Prior to marrying Russell I had only one experience with a pet, a cat we got when I was already a high school graduate. I didn’t grow up like my kids are growing up, surrounded by 4 legged creatures, some that sleep with them. The word that comes to mind this morning is “privilege.” It is a privilege to have these lives join ours and journey together. Isn’t it funny how the same thing that I call a privilege is also the thing that causes me to say “this is chaos!” Its so true. At 2am I was awakened by Coffee barking (but teen boy Morgan wasn’t woken!), I went downstairs and let her out of Morgan’s room, I let her have a drink and tucked her back in. Before I was back in bed she was barking again. I brought her up to the dog room tucked her in there and thankfully never heard from her again. In these middle of the night moments of wakefulness I am tempted to feel hard done by. Sometimes I totally do and I get a bit stormy. Last night, perhaps mindful of how blessed I feel that Coffee is on the mend, I was at peace and went back to bed and went to sleep. There is alot of deep stuff at play here……the power of relationship between creature and human, the possibility of and evidence of healing, so much gratitude for skilled caregivers like our veterinarians and gratitude to the Creator of all who has designed a world where healing, relationship and helping are forces like gravity, always having a say in what we need and how we act, for better or worse. Coffee is a joy, both the dog and for me the beverage. Thanks for taking a break a reading about our coffee.

Come for Coffee – If you have time!

Its Saturday morning and I have a bit of time, Saturday morning feels like a time to sit with a cup of coffee in hand for just a bit longer, in my ideal world anyways!

When life is shaped mostly by the rhythms of rural life (versus Covid rhythm) we often have people at our table that we talk to about our cows. Here is what that might sound like if you were hunkered down with a beverage, even if was just hot water, right Donna?

Our spring work is coming along and it is good to get jobs checked off. We are down to about 34 cows left to calve and most others are at their summer pastures. The most notable thing to report about the ranch is that we had a big rain last week, the kind of rain that gives us hope. Prior to that Russ described the conditions as drier than he has ever seen. Now we have hope that dugouts will maybe water cows through the summer, that hay just might grow and that pastures will hold. We shall see. Hope is a powerful thing and that rain delivered it. Calving season has been unusually successful, we have lost very few calves and had lots of twins so most Moms have a baby. Its been quite astounding. It has also meant that our bottle fed calf named “Bob” still has not got his own Mama. We are all getting quite close to our friend through our sharing of bottle duties. I would enjoy showing you this picture if you were here. A glimpse of barn life!

Sandy, you are so curious about Gina. If you were here we might forego the coffee in favor of a bottle of beer! And while here you could ask Gina in person how she has been. She is home for the summer! This was the sight last week when we picked her up from the Regina airport. She landed in a lightening storm, it was with huge relief we saw her plane taxiing up the runway! I have goosebumps writing this.

I recently had a birthday! With Gina’s plane landing late we stayed in Regina overnight and I woke up on my birthday in a hotel with all my kids near. Russ got the day rolling with the celebrating by scheming with the hotel staff to get candles and create this birthday breakfast muffin. I wish that Tara, who lives in Denver, could come for coffee, she has always impressed me with her committment to celebrating birthdays and remembering special days. I think she would be proud of Russell when the stories of this day got told.

I love the silhouettes here and especially how the hats figure into that.
I have 53 years under my belt. I am happy to turn the page on a new year.

My sister Margie has a real goofy side and knows about my enjoyment of Costco, she shares it. I would love having her for coffee and telling her about these silly moments. Maybe anyone who knows Russell can easily imagine them. Our time in Regina was short but a trip to Costco was top priority. We had not been in months and certain items are so great to have. With rain strongly in the forecast we bought a box of industrial garbage bags and bagged everything, including Gina’s luggage. The family work bee to get everything ready in the midst of very heavy winds, get the truck loaded and the carts returned was fun (we were still in the prone to giggle stage of our time away together, the prone to quarrel could have just as easily been at play as we tackled this wrap job which at times was frustrating.) The fun took some typical turns under Russell’s leadership.

And thats a wrap……literally.
We had an extra garbage bag out of the box so Russ and Morg decided to try cart sailing. It went pretty well.
The last big effort of our Regina adventure was the cart race back to the cart barn. I believe that Jill and Russ beat Gina and Morgan by a hair.

We zoomed back to Carnduff and dropped the kids at the rink where all three got their vaccinations. Russ and I went home, checked the cows, put the groceries away and met back up with the kids at Grandma Shirley’s house where she hosted a Chinese Food and Carrot Cake birthday supper. If there is coffee in heaven, and I hope there is, my Mom was possibly spilling hers, out of the sheer thrill she would feel in this vaccine development, also knowing someone was making her girl a great carrot cake.

One of the best gifts of the day…..to go to bed with my kids on their way to being protected from this illness.
Grandma Shirley’s love was a great gift on my birthday.

I am longing for one of those conversations where we dig around in our hearts and talk it out. My cousin and I did the phone version last week, but there is something about the in person version that is best. If you like the dig around in the heart kinds of conversation maybe we would consider the topic I started with Jodi last week. I have been struggling with a sense of doom. I think the dry conditions were a big part of that, but also this is perhaps part of the mental health toll of the pandemic and the hardship, injuries and losses that piled up over the year. I am a woman of faith so to admit that I have a sense of doom feels like a sign of weak faith. I don’t know about that. I just want to be honest. Naming it out loud is maybe part of the process of wrestling with it.

These figurines of my Mom’s remind me of good friendship. They cheered me on in the barn last week.

I really wish I could have my Grandma Kyle come for a cup of tea. She has really been on my mind. Russell has picked me some wild roses from the pastures a couple of times this week. Their scent is so vivid and it is has been a welcome addition to our house where dog related odors have been a bit much this week. The smell of roses reminds me of my Grandma Kyle because she loved all things rose and I quickly am reminded of being back in her home when I smell that rose scent, it was the soap in her bathroom I think. As I worked at my kitchen counter this week, thinking about her, I had something I don’t want to forget come to my mind. It was that to combat my sense of doom I need to broaden my perspective, my Grandma could be a part of that. She lost her first child in infancy, parented her next four children through infancy into teen years while WW2 waged on and then bore her sixth child in the last year of the war. I want to ask her….. What was that like? How did a sense of doom figure into her life? What came about for her after the worst had passed? From my perspective it looked like she lived a long and good life shaped by music, a growing family, much pride in her people and a strong sense of connection to her community and her faith. She had so much to look forward to even as war was waged. Thinking about her inspires me to think that there is much goodness yet to be known and lived and if she could walk through the shadows to get there I can too. Another part of the perspective I seek is my faith. I was reading my Bible that same day I was thinking about my Grandma. One of my favorite chapters invited me to consider Jesus, who endured so much opposition. It made the connection that in considering his experience of opposition, the hearer might not grow weary and not lose heart. What struck me about that was the word “consider”, in other words stop, or at least slow down, and be thoughtful, thought-filled, about those beyond you in space and time, there is more to the story Kathy, and Jesus is part of that, don’t lose heart.

I want to have someone for coffee, I don’t know who, who might talk with me about how weird life is. That on the one hand, in the inner spaces of our days we struggle with things like doom, like anxiety, like confusion and then we put on our outside faces and we go out into the world and we put forth our strong selves, and both things are true. I would tell my coffee partner about how Erin and I had the chance to sing at the farmers market in Oxbow this week. Our first gig since each of us had loss, big loss. We made mistakes, we laughed it off, we enjoyed the time to be with the community and to the outside eye noone would guess that this was a milestone of sorts. We managed to sing one of our really painful songs because Erin is brave. There is one I can’t do yet. We debuted a medley of Bee Gees songs that Erin created and brought a Beatles tune out for the 2nd time, its getting more solid. Its all alot of fun.

I stole a screenshot from the livestream that the Oxbow Arts & Cultural Committee posted of the event.

Gina has been home for a full week now and settled in really well. It has been great to have her home and I admire how she has made the transition from adult living her own big life in a city far away to ranch life under her parents roof. Yesterday we hauled our hot tub west of Estevan for repair (a mistake I made in the cold of January caused inner core damage). It was a road trip for Gina, Russ and I and included a few stops in Estevan. Once we got the tub dropped off it was really fun. Shopping cart antics were again in play, I think its about reclaiming a few minutes of childhood. Russell’s favorite part was when a man looked at our cart which Gina was sitting in and asked him, “what shelf do you find those on?” Russell loves to play and was glad to have someone playing along with their game. He had the chance to quickly reply including these words “my girl is home from university!” It was a good moment. I think this would be the time to have Aunt Karen over for coffee. I think she gets that as much as Russ is a big kid who can play hard, he is wired to be a Dad and bears the weight of the world on his shoulders, and this moment shows how he is keeping it all in balance. She frequently conveys her pride in Russ, she would like to have been there for these moments I think, but a re-telling over coffee would bring some laughs.

I would like to have you over for coffee Arlie, or anyone else who is wondering why I was absent from my blog for so long even when I had a plan for easy posting. After we got a cup of something poured and a bit of chit chat I would have to tell you that I confused myself but I just didn’t feel like blogging. My postcard project, as much as I enjoy it, takes me back to very tender days and I think thats why I just can’t post those as easily as I thought I could. I will get back to that. I have become obsessed with getting life better under control at home. I really mean at my desk. My yard needs lots of love yet. Adding to that my brain was not feeling creative at all, I just didn’t have content bubbling up. Really, I think this is life, things ebb and flow, circumstances shift, our emotions get unruly, we can become rather guarded. And then we wake up one morning, the sun is shining, there seems to be a bit of time, a cup of coffee is calling and you say to yourself, “I think I will go do some blogging.” Being a human is not dull.

Day 9 – Postcards from the Heart

Mom,

I really like this picture. I like the focus on my face. What I mean is, I am focused. I LOVE feeling focused. Its one thing I especially appreciate about ranch jobs, many of them have big things at stake which automatically creates focus, and of course, sometimes stress, lots of it.

Living with you in the role of support giver has had an inborn focus to it. The entire sister crew has been focused on enhancing your sense of comfort and safety. For a while I have been the closest hands and feet of that effort. It has been good for me to be allowed this focus. A bit of a balm for my frazzled soul.

Thank you for graciously welcoming me.

This picture was taken on December 4, 2019 while we were weaning our calves and getting ready to market them. This was Liz Griffin’s 2nd time out at the ranch documenting one of our work days.

This post is the 9th part of a 22 blog series called “Postcards from the Heart”, this series arises from circumstances detailed in the post called “Postcards from the Heart – Day 1.”

Day 6 – Postcards from the Heart

Mon. Oct. 5, 2020

Mom,

I love this picture. It is artistic and shows Jill’s capability. Somehow this image means alot to me at this time, as the health care system shapes our experiences so much.

I know that Jill could go almost any direction in life. I think her choices almost overwhelm her. However I think the common theme will be related to this image. Here she is poised to inject a vitamin dose into a cow. She has drawn it up, into the syringe.

What has she drawn up into herself because of your life, your legacy, that she will in turn inject into the world around her? 1)Generosity 2)Kindness. 3)Creativity 4)Hospitality

+more~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Thank-you!

This picture was taken by Liz Griffin Photography on January 1st, 2020. We were putting our whole cow herd through the chute to replace any tags that had come out, give a dose of vitamin A & D and a dose of ivomec, a liquid we apply down a cow’s back which helps prevent parasites. It was a big day. The next day they were being walked five miles by a crew on horseback, to a field of standing corn where they spent the month of January.

This postcard is the 6th part of a 22 blog series arising from circumstances detailed in the blog post called “Postcards from the Heart – Part 1.”

The Week We Have Known

Its been a week since I was free to do any blogging. It has been an unusually intense week, we took many pictures over the days and invite you to glimpse a week in the life of a prairie ranch family in spring 2021.

Every day these two bond more and more, Coffee dog gives us all a lot of joy.
Jill ate her evening meals with us this week, her quarantine period was hard for all of us, we missed her, when she joined us for supper we moved Buster’s chair over to Jill’s table so she could have company.
Jill is sitting at my Nanny’s dining room table, Buster is sitting in my Dad’s old highchair, the table still has plant pot rings from my Nanny’s love of plants. I wonder what she would think of the leggy seedlings I have going here. That is not a dog accident behind Jill although it sure looks like one. Its a paper from a box of chocolates one of my sisters sent for Mother’s Day.
We had twins this week, lots of twins, four sets in two days. Russ likes to bring them home so we can keep a close eye on them and how they are bonding. Here is the action on Tuesday, unloading one of the twins.
Things can get pretty tight in the womb, especially with twins, leaving joints without proper opportunity to strengthen. One of the twins needed us to splint her back ankles, here we are using duct tape over odd socks to create a quick and gentle “cast.”
Morgan carries the splinted calf to meet up with its Mom in the back of the shed.
Wednesday we put 65 cow calf pairs through the chute (vitamins, vaccines, tags, etc.) afterwards there was tons of regular work to do. I got the job of checking the cow herd for calving developments and troubles. I immediately found “Iron Man” with her brand new twins, the fourth set of the two days.
Thursday morning we got going early and thru the day got 60 more cow calf pairs through the chute. This moment is the very end of sorting the cows from the calves. Often the cows advance easily to their gate and we encourage that, we keep calves back then big groups of calves go to their gate, as you see here. Thats Ron, Russ and Morgan walking them down. Morgan was home to help us for three days. We really needed his help, hopefully he can catch up okay.
I thought this was a fun picture of Bingo quenching her thirst at one of the cow watering bowls.
Mostly I am including this picture because it is super cute of Russell. He is posing with this cow because she is named after his favourite kind of beer.
Mozza Stick got a replacement tag and hammed it up for the camera. Thats a radio frequency ID tag in her left ear, the number on it is linked to our ranch, no matter where she eventually goes in the food chain, that tag links her to our ranch, keeping us accountable to how we treat our animals and how healthy they are as they enter the food chain. It encourages us to feel proud of our animals.
One of the last big jobs of the day for Russ and Morgan, joined by Laurie after work, was to bring the cow calf pairs home that we would run through the chute the next day.
I was helping to turn them into the yard.
Our abundance of twins this season has meant we have extra calves to help keep alive. Here is Layne being bottle fed by Jill. We have two calves we are bottle feeding right now. The other is Bob. His Mom named Mary had twins whom we called Jesus and Bob, after a folk song about the brothers. Mary has Jesus but we have Bob. Bottle feeding is a hard job to do at the end of a long day, its not hard, but its just one more thing. We are glad Jill could do this. Its fortunate to have twins but its often a lot of work.
Late Thursday afternoon I had the job of checking the cow herd again. A pressing issue was finding Iron Man and her calves. After an hour I couldn’t find them and the grocery store was closing soon I thought. So I left the herd and landed in at the grocery store at 5:58, only to find out that they close at 7 (not 6) on Thursdays. Whew. I had a leisurely stroll around the store and found delicious ice cream on sale, milk, cream and a few other things. I headed back to the pasture. Are you with me on this, are you thinking, “Kathy didn’t really think that ice cream purchase through did she?” I prowled the area where Iron Man was most likely to be and eventually found her with only one calf. (Thats Iron Man and her one calf walking away from me right at the centre of the picture.) Well crumb. I called Russ, he sent me searching for the other one, I quite quickly found her. I called Russ again, I needed advice. I rose to the challenge he gave me and became the abductor. I caught the calf by the tail and wrestled her into the back of my Expedition. I was not sure how the trip back to Iron Man was going to go. You know, that calf surprised me, she just hunkered down right behind my seat and sat tight. I pulled up beside her Mom and helped her out and there was a reunion. I then went home with my soft ice cream. This morning my sister Margie named the twins, Ebony and Ivory. (The Ice cream survived🥴🍦🌞)
This was right after I had pulled the calf who would be named “Ivory” from the seat behind me and dropped her onto the ground, a reunion picture.
I could feel how glorious the evening sun was, I snapped this selfie to see how it looked, the sun looks good, I look tired.
Friday morning I was enlisted to help move 50 cow calf pairs from the pen they had spent the night in, into position to be sorted and readied to go through the chute. This truck push job was new for me, it was pretty easy. That pen is one Russ just built in the last year.
Jill finished quarantine and got to go to school Friday. When she got home she joined us at the chute for the last bit of work. We had handled a lot of animals without her, she picked up a tagger and got right down to work. How did we handle the work without her and Gina both? New skills were learned. Morgan became very good at giving needles this week (what he is doing here) and he learned to brand and is doing very well with that. I on the other hand, learned Jill’s job of castrating steer calves. Thats an interesting challenge. The atmosphere instantly became brighter when Jill arrived with her competence and willingness. Extra hands equal encouragement.
After feeding bottles to the baby calves I needed to change my clothes. It was about 7, “why not just put on a nightgown?” I thought. Then a phone call came, “can you run to the catch pen at the calving pasture and grab the calf pullers?” We had a heifer on the home quarter that needed help to calve. Russ grabbed this picture when I made the delivery. This is not Kathy Kyle at her best, but its my life.
The next morning that huge calf Russ had pulled was doing really well, its Mom, named “Endear” was doing well also.
Funny how some weeks seem to have themes………making another delivery in whatever I was wearing. This picture was this morning, in my robe, Russ called, he was administering some antibiotic to a calve with a bit of pneumonia and his syringe broke in the vehicle thanks to some dog action. He needed a fresh needle and syringe. The pic file says this was 9:30am, church started at 10. We were late, but we were all there. If you are against antibiotics in animals this anecdote might bother you. The way I see it, we give it this treatment and save its life. Were we attempting to produce antibiotic free beef we would see animals like this suffering needlessly and dying. This antibiotic will do its work and not linger in the animal. There are hundreds of days before this animal will become part of the food chain.
One more theme, animals getting their water. Here is Buster at the lunch table today.

This was a hard week. We are all exhausted. On Wednesday I calculated at the end of that one day that between five of us we had worked 63 hours, I was not including our lunch break, but did include a fifteen minute coffee in the afternoon. Why bother telling of that? I think it comes back to the title theme of this blog, about being seen. Its a hope that when I give that figure people will understand that us agriculture people truly do work hard for our living, that we love our animals and we are busting our butts trying to manage all the variables that equal quality of life for them. As I sit here tonight I can picture all the pairs we put through the chute this week, they are doing their thing, many of them already at their summer pastures, enjoying endless hours of prairie sunshine, hanging out as Mama and baby cows together. It seems okay.

In the midst of all this we have lots of great moments, Russ is fun and makes us laugh. Morgan is growing and changing and adding skills every day. We have had time with our cousins Laurie and Dawson who we appreciate so much. I made some food that I am proud of. We have had hard times, its not roses and sunshine around here all the time. We are worried sick about the lack of moisture, one of our dugouts went dry this week. We are getting impatient with each other. Russell and I had some hard words and I gave myself a time out at one point this week. Things don’t feel too carefree when work is front and centre from sun up til sun down. You start to miss feeling a bit carefree. But then the grace sweeps in. The warm things that start to thaw the ice between a man and a woman. The wisdom found in an awesome YouTube video (more Maya Angelou for me, listened to while checking cows) reminds of everything deeper and wider than the present moment. Cousins arrive and remind you that you are not alone. That softened ice cream tastes delicious and makes you feel brilliant for finding it. The beauty surrounding us, sights and sounds, touches your heart. My people come up against the dangers of big animals and stay safe, again and again. I am reminded that God has given me a purpose for my life. You find a way to give permission to yourself to be just human and struggling. The grace sweeps in and in a slower moment gratitude bubbles up.

And that is the week we have known. Is it too early to go to bed?

Chariots

I wanted to title this post “Chariots of Fire” but then thought that might raise alarm that we had a fire here, and thankfully we didn’t.  The thing is that this week my sisters were chatting back and forth posing and answering questions relating to my Mom’s paperwork.  I piped in that I wouldn’t be free to add in to the conversation, that I was on the run yet for a solid couple hours.  I wasn’t exercising, just to be clear. My sisters offered encouragement for the work I was doing, it was Jan who really addressed the situation when she sent me a YouTube link with the theme song to “Chariots of Fire”, iconic in our generation for its stirring race running scene/music.  Hearing that song did inspire me.  It also helped me to see the common thing that shaped the focus of the days activities, and that is, chariots of the modern variety……..vehicles. 

At about 5:08am (on Tuesday) Russ was in the bathroom attached to our bedroom starting his day.  Unfortunately he bumped his ankle on the foot pump part of our spin mop pail, it caused nerve pain up to his hip and he let out a loud and slightly harsh string of iffy words.  That woke me up.  He apologized but it seemed I was awake enough that more sleep would be hard to come by.  Since I was awake Russ invited me to come with him to do the morning check of the cows.  I was not really into that, I mean what would you choose, staying in a warm bed with a cup of coffee or heading out into a chilly morning?  The thing is, Russell had caught the tail end of a prairie chicken mating dance the morning before.  He said this time limited and seasonal activity may not be viewable much longer.  There was a chance we could catch it.  I was so torn.  I love my bed.   Yet, he described it as being an amazing natural thing of beauty and he said the male prairie chickens sound like motorcycles as they sing and dance.  This is what got me, a bird that sounded like a motor cycle.  I got myself ready, Russ made me a coffee to go and off we went, accompanied by our pack of dogs.   We loaded into the jeep, our somewhat rickety vehicle with amazing suspension, it is fantastic for cow checking.  It would be the first vehicle of importance in this day.

The jeep in it’s natural habitat.  (Picture taken on a different day.)
Bingo appearing to be at the wheel of our faithful jeep. (A summer 2020 picture)
The jeep last summer, under a rainbow. Except for a lot of problems with fuses this $2500 purchase has served us really well and saved wear and tear on the essential trucks.
Family time in the jeep, enroute to the cows and the prairie chickens. Life is never dull with Coffee dog around.
  This was kindv’e how we looked as we found the prairie chickens and watched with interest.  We could see them moving but didn’t hear anything.  Shute.  We had to keep our distance.  We wished we had thought to bring our binoculars.
This cow is special to me, she is named “Kumi” after a friend from Japan who travelled with me in “Up With People”, Kumi had calved not long before Russ and I arrived.  She has the morning sun in her eyes.  What is it about morning sun?  It seems especially good to me.
With the cow and heifer herds checked, the prairie chickens observed and breakfast delivered to the sweet girl in quarantine we headed to the corral for the work of the day.  We were getting three semi-loads of cow/calf pairs ready to go to pasture.  The pairs were in the holding pen at the north end of the corral.  When the riders were sure that a Mama and baby were correctly matched they brought them down the alleyway and I counted them as they went by.  We needed three groups of 40 pairs.
This barn cat kept me company for a while.
This is not a picture from yesterday, it is from December 2019.  I was not thinking about taking many pictures while we were working so I missed getting the shot that would capture the 2nd chariot of our day, the semi.    Using this picture I get to show Gina hard at work on the ranch.  Haven’t seen that lately, we miss our girl.  We are super grateful to get to work with Harold, he has trucked cows for us for years.  The process of getting the truck loaded starts with separating the cows and calves.  Including the time for pairing up and counting it ends up being a pretty time consuming thing.  Harold arrived for his first load shortly after 10am, getting three loads ready and loaded took us til about 3pm.  We used every minute that Harold was driving back and forth to get each load prepped, and we had a quick lunch. (A Liz Griffin Photography Image).
Harold’s truck is our cattle chariot of choice for hauling the big loads.
(A Liz Griffin Photography Image).
Cousin Laurie was out to help us again for the duration of the day, this time it was a planned thing.  After getting the first truck load sent off he and Morgan went up to the 7 quarters of land we rent up near Manor where the pairs were being delivered. They made sure that all pairs got  where they were supposed to be and were successfully reunited with each other (the cows and calves don’t travel together in the truck).  Morgan should have been at school but we were super grateful to have him in the saddle.   After the truck was loaded for the 3rd time I checked the herds again, was relieved to find no troubles and then dashed to town for groceries and got some beer just at closing time.  On my way home I caught the guys back together and still at work in the calving pasture.  We ripped open a bag of chips and each had a beer, (Morgan had a pop.)   It was a wonderful part of the day.
Laurie got this picture of us and in the background you see the 3rd chariot of the day.  Where we are sitting is special.  It is on land we rent, the foundation we are sitting on was once part of the home of a woman we have known and worshipped with at our church for a long time.  We call this little cement pad “Nell’s Porch.”
Russ sent me these pictures.  In that early morning check of the cows we noted that Baltimore had birthed twins.  It seemed wise to not leave her to mother both of them, not when we had the cow Owl with milk and no baby, (the Mom from the c section the day before.)  So here the guys were performing what they called a child abduction.  I would say this is dark humour, they all have the tenderest hearts ever, but after working so hard and seeing so much, sometimes you make dark jokes.  We had the van at the pasture anyways, so they jumped into what they jokingly called their abduction van and worked at getting the calf that Baltimore seemed to favour least.
That is Morgan hanging out the window, he is getting a rope going. 
With the abduction completed things were a bit chaotic in the back of the van.
Here is the van back in the fall, used for the purpose it was intended, to haul food and supplies needed for the meals offered while trailing cows home, and to give some wind shelter. (A Liz Griffin Photography Image).
The van is set up so that 10 people can eat inside. (A Liz Griffin Photography Image).
Here is the cowboy that dreamed up the idea of a Bayliss Chuckwagon, he is a master auto body guy and he created the van and gifted it to us. We are really enjoying it. This is David Powell. (A Liz Griffin Photography image).
The man who made this statement was the main character in the story “Chariots of Fire.”
I relate to this.
I found this graphic online, the action in this picture really reminds me of how life feels lately. I believe this was the movie Ben Hur.

Its now Friday evening, I have poked away at this. I have said I want my blog to be real so I want to share that the series of days recorded in the last few blog posts have come at a cost. I am not superwoman. I was toast on Wednesday. I had high hopes that with my own agenda to guide the day I would get some order restored in my life. It didn’t turn out that way, I was down and out, I was physically tired and for some reason emotionally fragile. I am not altogether myself yet.

The Cavalry arrived….again and again.

This post is to share what happened at the ranch on Monday. I have made “the cavalry” the theme because it was a day where several things went wrong and four times help arrived. It is unbelievable how much my feelings shift when we go from a place of struggling to cope with a moment or circumstance to tackling it together with someone who has the power to help.

The first part of our day involved the vet Marcel coming to do a c-section. He gave me permission to take pictures of his work and to use them in the blog. So this is a warning that about 15 of the pictures in this post are of this surgical process to get a too large calf removed from a cow. I had never seen it done before and wasn’t sure I wanted to stay and watch. I kind’ve made myself and I am glad I did. It was really interesting.

Russ had hoped to be on his horse by 8 and bringing a small herd of cows and calves home to put through the chute. But his morning check identified a couple problems. This cow is Owl, after Russ decided she needed help he went to get his horse. In the meantime she took off and played hide and seek with Russ. When she was finally into the holding area Morgan and Russell’s efforts to pull the calf were not working, they called me to come with “the puller” a more high intensity device. Russ was just getting that going when I took this picture. A foot has emerged but that’s it.
It was my job to call the vet for help to pull the calf. We were blessed by the fact that he was just finishing an in clinic surgery, we would not wait long for him. The arrival of Marcel’s mobile unit definitely was a moment that felt cavalry like to me..
Marcel quickly determined that this calf was very large and a pull would not be possible. He got set up to do a c-section. The first step was to shave the surgical area.
The area was very thoroughly scrubbed clean, three or four times it seemed.
Marcel administered a solution to freeze the area.
The incision is begun here.
Once the opening was created Marcel was able to investigate the positioning of the calf. It was not ideal, more to the other side, he had to flip it/reposition it to make it possible to extract it.
It was incredible to watch Marcel’s confident movements.
The beginning of the emergence of the calf.
More of the calf emerging, its sac sure looks mighty to me.
Morgan was recruited to help position the chains.
Two feet through the opening and through the sack.
Placing the chains.
Morgan got to play an important part in delivering this baby.
Russell had the job of removing the sac. Marcel saw signs through the last stage of his work that the calf was not alive. He was correct. It was not breathing. Just a bit too long without oxygen. This made Russ feel frustrated with Owl for the time spent playing hide and seek earlier.
One of Marcel’s gifts is teaching. I have seen it many many times. Today was no different. Here, if I remember correctly, Marcel took the chance to show us the cow’s uterus. It will shrink considerably.
He also showed us some of the intestines. I have forgotten some of the interesting information he gave us about these.
This is the cows ovary. We discussed in this moment the reality that cows and humans share, that the egg that would go on to become a fertilized embryo, our beginning, that egg was present in our mothers when they were born.
Jill was out checking cows and dropped in to watch the later part of the procedure.
Marcel began the stitching up process which involved interior and exterior stitches, very strategically and quickly done.
Isn’t that amazing? Marcel arrived at 11:00, just before 12 the procedure was done.
Meanwhile……..back to the rest of the day…..Jill was checking heifers and found Agape and her new calf had been separated by a fence…the calf rolled under it likely. Jill faced her fear of that mother and got things made right. She found this vantage point once the calf was back with its Mom quite fun.

Things were made complicated at this point in the day by an equipment problem that emerged. It was not urgent exactly but Russ called his cousin at Fast Trucking for a consult. By the end of the day Fast Trucking had been out twice, to assess and then deal with the issue we had. With their expertise what we thought was a big deal turned out to be not too big at all. That was episode two of the Cavalry arrival in our day.

After a late lunch and urgent stuff getting done Morgan and Russ went and got the 40 pairs from the heifer pair pasture. I got recruited to guard the top of the low level crossing road, to keep those girls heading west and not turn south. This is when one of our neighbours appeared on his way to town. He stopped, helped me with my job then proceeded on. It was almost 4pm at this point.
On his way back from town Tate was going by just as we were working the herd through the yard to get to the corral gate. He helped us keep the herd going in the right direction, not a small feat. We decided Tate’s arrival was the third time the cavalry arrived on this day. As we were finishing up this part Russ told me that Laurie had found out we were way off track with our day and he was coming out after work to help us out. I think my heart skipped a beat. I knew that Russ, Morgan and I could get this job done, but just how much energy to persevere would this require? Indeed the cavalry was on the horizon, for the fourth time in one day.
Just after we got the cows and calves separated Ron got home from fencing, Laurie arrived, he brought Dawson, and suddenly our skeleton crew of 3, envisioning a whole night ahead of finishing working with this little herd, doubled in size. We were back to being a well oiled machine and zipped through it all in time to have pizza in the garage at about 7:30.
Meanwhile, Jill was trying to get her school work done and check the herds. She definitely had her hands full. She sent us pictures throughout the day. This was a fun one.

It is now Wednesday morning and I am about to hit the publish button on this post that I have poked away at as time has permitted over the last 24 hours. As I sit here pondering this day we lived I cannot help but notice there are some seriously deep threads that could be looked at much more closely. One of those threads is about the instinct to help another, it is just so major. I see this as holy, as something God has put in the human heart. So when we are helped by another I see it as a sign, God is at work. To be in so much need and to have help come, even when it is help like Marcel’s which will have a bill attached to it, its still an experience of being provided for and deep gratitude seems the only fitting response (and paying the bill of course….lol). When the help comes as a gift, such as Laurie and Dawson’s hours and Tate’s moments with us, it just feels like love. God knows we all need that. One other deeper thread to notice is just how much suffering has resulted in the last year because we have not been free to be each others calvary arrival. There are so many that have had to struggle through all manner of difficult things with a bare minimum of help because of the need to distance. I hope the experiences of this pandemic can remind us just how very much we mean to one another and guide us in good directions going forward.

Just a little something fun to finish up with.

And it was glorious….

9am Monday – A quick blog post about yesterday, again, little writing and mostly pictures. I didn’t think I would get to do this today but what I am needed for outside has been delayed. The guys have some calving troubles to deal with before we put a small group, 40 cows and calves thru the chute, maybe I can get this done.

If you read the post “horsing around” you will know that the cowboys brought 80 pairs down the road to home late on Saturday. Those 80 pairs were the focus of our attention on Sunday.

The morning got off to a really quick start, the animals we were treating were already home and Jill checked the cow and calf herds all day, a good break for her from the life of quarantine. This was terrific. It was a good boost of momentum to be started early and for Russ to be allowed to focus. Meanwhile, Jill found that “Tulip” had birthed twins.
I took this picture in the morning, the rain falling off the roof of the pole shed created this impact, this clear image of water falling is the reason for the name of this post. As we worked Sunday morning everything went smoothly. After the chaos of the night before the cows were settled right down. They moved easily, everyone had a job and seemed comfortable, was doing great at it and in the background there was the sound of rain on a tin roof. We have had so little moisture in the last 9 months that we have a deep deep concern about hay, pasture and dugouts. With the music of the rain in the background I had a sense of peace and contentment come over me that I have not felt in such a long time. It was glorious.
It was a trick for me to have something ready for lunch when we got started way earlier than usual but I got a batch of bread going and put it in the oven to rise and set the timer to start on its own. I came in and took it out when my alarm went on my phone. Having had my experience with Coffee dog, detailed in the “come for coffee” post a couple days ago, I put the bread in the microwave to cool. I learned that lesson.
A picture that is mindful of my friends named Liz. Liz and I at the chute.
At one point I went and did Laurie’s job while he was helping Morgan bring more cows up from outside. Skipper the cow was not happy about moving forward. I gave her a minute to collect her thoughts and grabbed this picture. Kind’ve a cool vantage point of the calves, waiting for their turn.
In Jill’s checks of the heifers she found one having trouble calving. After an early lunch we brought “Talk” in and helped her get that calf out. Dawson took this picture. “Talk” is one of the heifers with names that equate to strength for our relationship, the name theme for this years new Mama cows. Just as the trouble with “pray” was a very true to life thing (referring to the “Praying Games” post) the fact that “Talk” had to be pulled is almost to the point of hilarious for me. When Russ and I got married we took a test to determine our strengths and our challenges. The test revealed that communication was one of our challenges. I was almost insulted by that. Couldn’t be right. I mean seriously. Well…………did that ever pan out to be true! Learning to talk well together has taken years and years. I think both of us had to figure out how to pull some important stuff from the other. Or maybe, what is more accurate, we discovered the importance of trying to understand each other which allowed “talk” to emerge quite naturally versus being pulled out. I am shaking my head while writing this!!!
Here is the calf you might have read about in the “Whats in a Name?” blog post, this is Lisa. She is the calf of “Kathy”, she is sure a cutie.
I had a tag marker nearby so I had the chance to personalize my calves tag.
Morgan’s friend Jacob worked hard pushing calves through the chute up to the table.
Shaylee also pushed calves, did a few odd jobs and learned a few tagging tricks from her Mom.
Morgan was more at home than ever heading up the very physical job of getting these calves moving along up the chute. He gave us a big laugh when he popped his head out at one point and referring to the fact that we determine the sex of every calf while we work with it, said “hey, this is like the worlds biggest ever gender reveal party!” It seemed funnier to me when he said it.
There are perhaps 2 “what the heck?!?” reactions that could emerge from this picture. 1. Are these not Covid times? 2. Russell why are you branding this sweet creature? Ouch. The fact is that both these guys are vaccinated and I am vaccinated. The rest of our team was constantly moving in an environment with a huge amount of air and 3 large openings and 1xxxl opening to the outdoors, on Laurie’s left is an industrial fan. We did our best. About branding…..people steal unbranded calves so we opt to brand. We would rather not. We cause pain, we hate that.
Our team at work, friendship will help us survive these especially stressful days in this pandemic. This was a beautifully oiled machine about 5 calves into the process. A process we just need to tackle in order to get calves ready to go to their summer pastures. With Jill and Gina not available and Ron getting miles and miles of pasture fences repaired, Laurie, Dawson, Eliza, Jacob and Shaylee helped us practically which meant great things for our morale.
A glorious sight which I do not take lightly. I almost hesitate to post this because I know how it feels when the life-giving rains fall for other people and not at your place. We were so blessed with a solid rain in the afternoon, again after the morning bit of glory falling down. This picture is from the door of our pole shed. We are feeling very thankful.